Presence AI, a French AI that takes the opposite of Google Duplex

Headquartered in San Francisco, the start-up co-founded by two French proposes to manage the making of commercial meetings by SMS or via Alexa. She seduces the beauty sector.

Could a start-up developed in California by French counteract the plans of Google Duplex  ? For the record, the new Google Conversational Intelligence service offers to phone in the place of the user to make appointments. “Google Duplex offers to generate more commercial calls while companies want to reduce,” says Michel Meyer, one of his three co-founders who is also a personality of the hexagonal internet known to have founded Multimania (French community site , sold to Lycos in 2000). Created in 2016, its start-up took the problem differently.Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant , waiting for Google’s one. The application also distinguishes itself from intelligent assistants like Julie Desk or Clara who automate the making of appointments by adding messaging and calendar.

The idea of ​​Presence AI came to Michel Meyer by consulting the telephone bills of his eldest daughter. He realized that she was no longer making phone calls, only exchanging text with her contacts. And she’s not the only one. According to him, fewer and fewer people drop their phones and this trend can only increase with the arrival of force Generation Y and Z, addicted to their smartphone. 

“We are entering the age of conversational internet,” says Michel Meyer. “Businesses must therefore optimize messaging and intelligent assistant interactions, especially since scheduling is a time-consuming activity, and more than 20% of meetings are moved or canceled.” By text or voice, AI Presence intends to allow businesses to be available immediately 24/7 to book, confirm or reschedule an appointment.

Incubated by the Alexa Accelerator by Techstars

To manage SMS, Presence AI leans on the fixed line of the company or creates a dedicated number. On the vocal side, the platform works closely with Alexa’s teams to optimize responses. From July to October 2018, she participated in the Amazon Alexa Accelerator incubation program powered by Techstars in Seattle. “With Alexa, orders are often simple,” notes Michel Meyer. “Taking appointments hides a certain level of complexity with the constraints of dates and the identification of the services requested.”

If a large number of appointments are managed automatically, Presence AI can also set multichannel exchanges to music. The customer initiates, for example, the conversation on Alexa and the sending of the confirmation of the niche is realized by SMS. In the meantime, making appointments required that a professional consult his agenda. For example, a customer of a hairdressing salon could ask for both a cut and a color with special requirements. The AI ​​will then hand over to his usual hairdresser.

Not only does Presence AI aim to achieve the highest conversion rate, but also to improve the frequency of visits. The artificial intelligence is going to prevent that the client it is time to make an appointment based on the history of past visits or prolonged absence. Each company adopts its strategy. “If a business passes for a given customer from six visits a year to seven, the impact on its turnover is immediate for a purchase cost virtually nil,” says Michel Meyer.

Faced with the fear that AI will replace employees, Michel Meyer believes that on the contrary it removes the burden of answering the phone to focus on higher value-added tasks. “At the end of the free trial period, it is also the people who are our best lawyers,” he says. In terms of price, Presence AI offers an entry-level version at $ 49 per month for less than 200 customers, a business version at $ 129 per month with an unlimited number of customers, and finally a business edition on estimate for a number unlimited sites and custom integrations.

Suggest additional sales

Presence AI raised funds in 2016 from business angels and two investment funds, the Frenchman Newfund and the American Blue Capital. More recently, Amazon.com and Techstars have invested $ 120,000 in the company. To increase its installed base, Presence AI plans to equip other messaging channels like WhatsApp but also to expand its field of prospection. So far, the young growth has focused on the health-beauty market (hairdressers or massage parlors, eyelash or nail care specialists) and related trades (sports classes, rental of ‘sports equipments). It integrates its application with management software focused on these segments, such as SalonBiz or Mindbody Booker. In the future, it plans to attack other sectors, including the automotive sector.

Presence AI also plans to support new scenarios. In the context of cross-selling and up-selling, “it will be to offer additional services,” says Michel Meyer. “You come tomorrow to the salon, we offer a massage of the head.You have opted for such oil during a massage session, do you want to buy it?”

In terms of development, Presence AI, which is currently present in 24 states, aims to continue its coverage of the United States but also expand internationally. The company has been contacted by several Anglo-Saxon companies in the United Kingdom, Australia or Canada. “When it comes to developing a new language, French will be at the top of the list with Spanish,” promises Michel Meyer. Meanwhile, the San Francisco-based start-up employs only six people. Alongside Michel Meyer, there are two other co-founders: Pierre Berkaloff of France, CTO, and John Kim in charge of customer follow-up.

“Product CEO” of Presence AI, Michel Meyer invested, in parallel, in a dozen start-ups he accompanies. Among them are Aircall (call center software publisher) and Algolia (famous  application search engine ), both also created by French people.